King Herod heard about it, because Jesus’s name had become well known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that’s why miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He’s Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet, like one of the prophets from long ago.” When Herod heard of it, he said, “John, the one I beheaded, has been raised!” (Mark 6:14-16)
Politicians love to use religion to validate their authority; they are not so happy when religion challenges their authority. It didn’t take long before the work of God through John the Baptist caught the attention of the political powers of Jerusalem. King Herod, the Jewish king, was a puppet appointed by Caesar in Rome. Part of his job was to keep order, and John the Baptist began to threaten that order. Herod ultimately had John executed, and the writer of the gospel of Mark will now explore this tragic event. For us, it is a reminder that the Christian faith cannot be lived in a vacuum. It has an effect everywhere it goes and ultimately touches even the secular authorities that govern us.
One odd thing in this passage is that Herod believed that Jesus was John the Baptist, raised from the dead. Therefore, Herod had some measure of religious belief, though he was not practicing the religion of his ancestors. In truth, I think that it is rare to find someone who is a true atheist, that is, someone who has no religious belief whatsoever. Wherever there is belief in God, however small, there is a grain of faith that can be cultivated.
Lord, in a time when our religious faith is creating friction with the authorities that govern us, give us courage and steadfastness. As the kingdom of God extends throughout the world, let it bring peace and order. Move in the hearts of those who govern us, that they might yield to your authority in all matters of their governance.